Anselm Pita has been involved in Flash animations since 2004, releasing them on Newgrounds. For more than a decade and a half, he, together with his friend Benedikt Hummel (German Benedikt Hummel), developed several popular free browser games, and in 2017 founded Studio Seufz. But despite the fact that there were already several projects, The Longing became the first serious publication for the studio, and Pete’s personal project.
In 2012, Anselm Pyta visited the “Barbarossa Cave” in Germany, where he learned that, according to legend, the famous German monarch and emperor Barbarossa did not die, but was sleeping in this cave. Legend has it that after some time he will wake up and take his throne again. At the same time, his peace is supposedly guarded by a lone servant named Shade, who checks once every 100 years whether it is time to wake up from sleep. Pete saw in this plot the basis for a computer game. Moreover, his idea was to make a game about this very servant. Despite the fact that he is practically not mentioned in the legend, this was enough for the developer to become interested in this character. Peeta wondered, “What would this character do to keep from going crazy in this anticipation and alone?”
Incremental games such as Clicker Heroes are another source of inspiration. Pete says these games are special because the player stays in them even after the game is closed. For example, in The Longing there is an episode where the player has to wait for a spider to weave a web. If the player closes the game and returns to it after two days, then the network will be ready, and it will be possible to climb on it. This allows the player to overcome the obstacle without any stress, and at the same time, it can be coupled with a strange sense of accomplishment.
Puzzles became another element. However, their manifestation and solution are designed based on the peculiarities of the passage of time. So, the landscape of the cave where the game takes place can change over time, which opens up opportunities for solving puzzles. But the player needs to be patient for both the first and the second. This gave some form of motivation for the players so that they did not just wait for the end of the game, but showed their activity in order to find something new.
Pete’s original goal was for the player to empathize with the character. Of course, the player can leave it for 400 days. But the developer set himself the task of finding ways for the players to care so much for the little hero that it encouraged them to explore the cave and find something to do. At the same time, the real gameplay is very slow, and it was necessary to find mechanisms that would allow the player not to feel too bored. To achieve the goal, Pete began to use the carrot and stick method. Most often, it should be so that the player must be sure that if he begins to carry out a task for the character while he is out of the game, then it will actually be completed. In addition, it is necessary to somehow punish those who change the time on their computers – and if this happens, then the Shadow will be sent to prison.
Another challenge during the design of game interactions was the need for many additional dialog elements. Since the character is one, he must comment on what is happening in different ways, especially if there is some progress in the game. In this regard, Pita moved away from simple animation, and the character talks to himself, falls asleep while waiting, and may dream. At the same time, the player needs to be constantly reminded of the time, and since the action takes place in a cave, there is no way to make daily cycles (day / night). So, one of the ideas was that from time to time, stones fall from the ceiling, and at the same time they are involved in the gameplay – they can be taken as objects.
To test his gaming experience, Peeta noted that he had many good reasons not to do the modeling of the game time, as it becomes difficult to test the player’s feelings, including when using the developer’s tools to speed up the time. According to Pete, the real gaming experience allowed for the balance of the game, which proved to be a daunting task. The use of time has changed the gaming space, as, for example, the game designer receives elements with behavior that is not typical of other games. So, instead of creating an object, you can not put it in the final state, but place a piece of moss, which after a while will turn into a conceived object.
In 2019, The Longing received the Long Feature award at the A MAZE computer games festival in Berlin . The Longing received a Special Mention at the Stuttgart Festival that same year for its extremely innovative storytelling style.